March 2003 Membership Meeting

Gifford Park Association
General Membership Meeting
March 20, 2003

President Fran Cella called meeting to order at 7:10 p.m. All present at the meeting introduced themselves.

Fran Cella announced that the GPA received an Image Award from the Elgin Image Commission just a week earlier. She said GPA was in very good company with so many great nominations. Congratulations GPA members. (This is at least the second Image Award as well as a few Mayor’s Awards that GPA has received over time. All members should take pride in the positive improvements we have made).

Fran announced that the Membership Potluck will be held at the Lord’s Park Pavillion, May 2, 6pm. The Great Unveiling is scheduled for May 10. Please call Dan Miller at 697-3370 if you are interested in having your house unveiled or to volunteer to help with the work that Saturday. Fran informed members that she had delivered a neighborhood improvement grant submission to the City. Our selected project is improving the vacant lot at the corner of Geneva and Chicago. Landscaping, benches, a paver plaza, low ornamental fence and an entry feature with a sign welcoming all to the historic district are in the plans.

Rope officer Kevin Sosnowski gave an update on police issues. There has been no gang activity recently. Loud music seems to be the biggest complaint and there will be an extra effort to enforce the loud music ordinance. Recently there was a rental property owners meeting to better inform landlords of some issues.

Rich Hirschberg, neighbor and rep for the Center for Neighborhood Technology presented information about the new WiFi program. The program intends to hook up low/moderate income households to internet access for free. At first 10 households will be served. The service is not available to the entire neighborhood.

They also are looking for computer donations for these households. Our neighborhood may be able to participate in the near future. Rich asked GPA to consider applying for a grant from the City such as NENA is doing this grant cycle. Questions please contact Rich.


Fran introduced developers that plan to subdivide the old 3.7 acre Grandview site, located between Channing and Gifford, near Villa. Lee Fitzsimmons introduced his team. He stated that the property is currently under contract to purchase. His intent is to create 9 single family lots, which will meet the zoning standards for minimum size and width, etc. Many lots on Channing will be 52’ X 264’, long and narrow. Architect

John Roberson talked about the intended architecture. He showed examples of other lots in Elgin where the lot width is 50’+/-. A number of lots on Prairie are this size. Fitzsimmons committed that his 9 homes will have the same quality appearance as the historic homes shown on his picture board.

Fitzsimmons responded to a request to do a tree survey stating that he would have one done for all disturbed areas. Some neighbors pointed out that there is a problem with sewers on Channing Street backing up into basements. Fitzsimmons response was that the City engineering department told him there is not a problem and if there was one, Fitzsimmons stated that the City would be responsible to repair it.

There were questions regarding the architecture of these proposed homes and how will the neighborhood be assured that they will actually be built as Fitzsimmons stated earlier. Others explained that each house design must go through the COA approval process with the Hertitage Commission. This would occur at building permit time.

Members pointed out  that this subdivision needs to be approved by the Planning and Development Commission prior to the City Council approval. The plan commission hearing will be April 7.

The engineer for the project explained that the required storm water detention for these lots can be provide on each lot with dry wells. Some of the neighbors comments included:

_   The existing foundation still exists. Maybe this will require a historic/archaeologic survey be prepared?

_   There will have to be a lot of grading on site in order to flatten the building sites. This significant change in the existing topography.  May not meet the standards of design guidelines  that the Heritage Commission will use. All the grading required will necessitate a 11’-13’ tall retaining wall.

_   All 7 lots shown on Channing will each have a driveway leading to the rear of the house where there will be a garage. The drive locations will cause parkway trees to be cut down as well as limit the on street parking possible. A suggestion was made to provide an alley at the rear of  the houses to provide vehicle access to detached garages. The alley would serve as a buffer between private lots and possible public open space.

_   A suggestion was made to provide a conservation easement on the back of the proposed lots, protecting the grades and vegetation from destruction. Fitzsimmons stated that he is not willing to do this. Both he and Roberson stated that all the trees on the hill were garbage trees not worth saving.

_            Neighbors asked if the developer considered building a large house on the lot, replacing the mansion that once stood there. Fitzsimmons said he did consider it.

_   The potential developer clarified to the group that all the new homes will probably be two stories, not 1 ½ as the samples photos show. Greenhagel builders will be the builder of these homes. Some examples of his work include 194 W Lynn St in Elgin, and 39W651 Lorie Lane in rural Elgin.

_   The developer may consider acquiring and rehabbing some of the adjacent structures.

_   GPA’s concern of providing open space on this parcel was strongly voiced. Members stated that the neighborhood is the most dense in the City and has the biggest deficit of open space park land in the City. Since this parcel is the only remaining vacant parcel left in the neighborhood the opportunity to save this parcel from development should be seriously considered by the City. Members asked Fitzsimmons if he would consider selling the land to someone that may save the land as open space. He said yes, either the whole parcel or separate lots will be available. He also stated that at this time he has approximately $19,000 invested in his work.

_   Sean Stegall, assistant city manager was present to hear all the concerns of the GPA.

Meeting was adjourned at 8:50.

Respectfully submitted by Paul Bednar

PS:  a big thank you to President Fran Cella and the rest of the board for all their work. It is difficult to grasp how much time and effort is required for GPA to continue to tackle the many neighborhood issues from day to day.

GPA Calendar

General Membership Meeting     April 17, 2003, 7pm at 355 E. Chicago St.
Agenda includes;
A presentation by Rich Jacobs, new executive director of NHS.
Discussions about the various projects to be undertaken this Spring and Summer.